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TikTok in trouble again! Fined $15.9m by UK watchdog for failing to protect children’s privacy

he fine comes at a time when TikTok is facing increased scrutiny from regulators and governments around the world. The app has been banned on government devices in several countries, including Canada, Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand, Taiwan, the UK, and the US.

TikTok

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined popular video-sharing platform TikTok $15.9 million for failing to protect the privacy of children. The ICO estimates that around 1.4 million children in the UK aged under 13 used the platform back in 2020, further adding that it found the app using the data of these children without obtaining parental consent.

The ICO found that children’s data may have been used to track and profile them, potentially exposing them to harmful or inappropriate content.

Information Commissioner John Edwards stated, “There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world. TikTok did not abide by those laws.” He added that the fine reflects the serious impact of TikTok’s failures on the children affected. In an interview with BBC, Edwards pointed out that TikTok had not taken any steps to obtain parental consent.

TikTok has responded by stating that it has “invested heavily” in preventing under-13s from accessing the site. A TikTok spokesperson told the British publisher that while the company disagrees with the ICO’s decision, it is pleased the fine has been reduced to under half the amount initially proposed. TikTok is currently reviewing the decision and considering its next steps.

The ICO’s fine is one of the largest it has ever issued. It had initially issued a “notice of intent,” warning TikTok that it could face a £27 million fine for these breaches. However, the fine was later reduced after the ICO found that TikTok had not unlawfully used special category data.

TikTok has 28 days to appeal the fine and make representations to the ICO. If successful, the final amount could be reduced. The regulator has a maximum of 16 weeks from issuing the notice of a proposed fine to deliver its final verdict. Any fines received by the ICO are returned to the Treasury.

The fine comes at a time when TikTok is facing increased scrutiny from regulators and governments around the world. The UK’s Online Safety Bill, set to be passed in the coming months, requires strict age verification processes for social networks. Firms that fail to comply could face significant fines. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, reportedly made $80 billion in revenue in 2022, making the £12.7 million fine a relatively small amount in comparison.

TikTok is also under global scrutiny due to security concerns, with many Western countries taking measures against the app over fears that users’ data will be shared with the Chinese government. The app has been banned on government devices in several countries, including Canada, Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand, Taiwan, the UK, and the US, as well as for anyone working at the European Commission.

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